'Cher journal': French love affair with internet results in world's top bloggers

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The Independent Online

What is the French for a "blog"? The answer is "un blog" - and the French have seized on them more enthusiastically than any other nation. By several yardsticks, the French are more rabid bloggers than even the Americans, who invented them.

According to one recent survey, six million French men and women, or one in 10 of the population, have blogs, or interactive internet diaries, devoted to their personal lives, thoughts, anguishes, loves and hatreds.

This figure, based on unchecked claims by French internet users, is regarded as exaggerated. A more conservative survey, by the respected media study company Médiamétrie, puts the number of active French blogs at just over three million - still proportionately far ahead of the US and by far the largest number in Europe. Britain is estimated to have more than one million blogs.

Why are the French such keen bloggers? Sociologists and internet experts say the form might have been invented for the French. The blog is an instantly published diary: a newspaper by oneself, devoted entirely to one's own actions and thoughts. What a godsend for an endlessly opinionated and individualistic nation (which, famously, reads very few newspapers). "It is clear that in France we have very large egos and love to speak about ourselves," said Loic Le Meur, one of the first French bloggers, and now European managing director of the blog-hosting website, Six Apart. "If you look at Germans or Scandinavians, they really don't talk about themselves." Eighty per cent of French bloggers are 24 or younger. More than 50 per cent are women - mirroring the fact that girls and young women are more likely to keep diaries.

"They are the information generation, born to computers," said Pierre Bellanger, head of Skyrock, a radio station for the young, which runs Europe's largest blog-hosting site, Skyblog. "This is the first time an entire generation has been able to talk to itself without anyone else intervening." One of the reasons blogs are so popular is that, in France, everyone is his or her own political party. All hopefuls in the presidential race next year, including the runaway Socialist contender, Ségolène Royal, have joined the "blogosphere". Other bloggers include the footballer, Zinedine Zidane.

One of the most popular French blogs, outside France, is www.bonjour-america.com, launched by Cyrille de Lasteyrie to explain France to foreigners. It is obsessed with Cyrille's hero, Clint Eastwood. Most blogs are hardly visited. One per cent of French blogs take 80 per cent of all hits. But then, who cares, so long as you can endlessly celebrate yourself?

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